Province of B.C.: Improved system coming for children and youth with support needs

Press Release

Oct. 27, 2021

VICTORIA – Neurodiverse children and youth and those with disabilities will benefit from a new service system that will provide supports for children and youth based on their unique needs, with or without a diagnosis.

Currently, children have to wait for help until they are diagnosed. Many children, such as those with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, qualify for very few supports, even though they may have high needs.

“The existing patchwork of programs has left too many children and youth with support needs behind,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development. “That’s why we’re putting children and youth at the centre of our new system and making it easier for families to get the high-quality services they need, regardless of where they live in the province.”

Under the new approach, children, youth and their families will be able to quickly access information, expert intervention and therapies at new one-stop family connections hubs. These supports and services will be available from birth to age 19 and will be based on a child’s or youth’s individual needs, regardless of whether they have a referral or diagnosis. As a first step, hubs will open in two areas – the Northwest and Central Okanagan – starting in 2023 before being launched provincewide in 2024.

“No child should be refused help meeting their needs because they don’t have a specific diagnosis,” said Dan Coulter, Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility and vice-chair of the Minister’s Advisory Council for Children and Youth with Support Needs. “Our approach will ensure children and youth receive faster access to services and supports all in one place, helping them reach their individual goals.”

The new system will provide help to approximately 8,300 more children and their families, representing a 28% increase in the number of children who will be able to access disability supports and services.

“My son has Down syndrome and very complex developmental needs. We reached out to the ministry because the current system did not provide adequate support in our rural community,” said Zev Tiefenbach of Salmon Arm. “We appreciate that the ministry heard that change was needed and that it is developing a comprehensive network that will help more families gain access to services that are desperately needed. For us, many of these services are critical for our son to be able to enjoy a quality life, and it’s heartening to see that the government is building a program that puts his needs at the forefront.”

When the two new hubs are available, parents and caregivers who are receiving individualized autism funding and school-age extended therapy benefits will have the option to continue with the supports they have or to instead opt into the new hub services and supports. This choice will remain in place until 2025 when hubs will be available provincewide and individualized funding is phased out.

In addition, changes to make respite services more flexible during the pandemic are being made permanent, ensuring families can continue to receive services such as counselling, house cleaning and food preparation. Out-of-home stabilization services are being developed to further support parents of children and youth with significant needs.

“While this gradual transition is underway, we are committed to continuing to provide services and supports for children, youth and their families,” Dean said. “We will work with all partners, including Indigenous Peoples and families, to ensure we get this right.”

The change to a needs-based approach for developmental supports responds to the repeated recommendations from the representative for children and youth, the all-party Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth, and calls for change raised during consultation with more than 1,500 Indigenous and non-Indigenous families, advocates and service providers.


Satbir Cheema, president and CEO, Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) –

“It can be extremely challenging for parents to have to shop around for the best supports for their child, especially for families for whom English may not be their first language. Services that are culturally safe, inclusive, easy to navigate and offered in one convenient location are critical to ensuring all children and youth with support needs are getting the help they need.”

Dr. Matthew Chow, president, Doctors of BC –

“We are enriched as a society by children who are neurodiverse and living with disabilities. I am very pleased to see the provincial government move toward a needs-based system of supports for these children and their families. As a specialist in child and youth mental health, I know that neurodiversity and disability does not always fit nicely into diagnostic categories. I look forward to the positive impact for everyone involved in helping our children grow and succeed.”

Audrey McFarlane, executive director, Canada FASD Research Network –

“As the executive director of the Canada FASD Research Network, I support the new direction that B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development is taking to better support children and youth with FASD and their families. The new plan is bold in its restructuring of these services and aims to reduce complicated application processes, improve equitable access to services, regardless of the diagnosis, and addresses the levels of complexities that exist in many families.”

Joshua Myers, executive director, BC Centre for Ability –

“After many years of a system that has been fragmented and challenging for families to access, we are happy to see the significant changes proposed in this new approach. We are encouraged by government’s commitment to improve access for children and families, provide services based on need rather than on diagnosis only, and increase accountability to deliver high-quality and culturally safe services from birth to age 19. These significant changes will require the necessary transition time and resources to fully realize, and we look forward to continuing our work with the Ministry of Children and Family Development to ensure all children and youth with extra support needs and their families across B.C. have access to the services they need when and where they need them.”

Christine Bradstock, chief executive officer, Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia –

“Physiotherapists look forward to providing services in a more coherent system of supports that removes current key barriers for families and their children as they find and access the care they need.”

Quick Facts:

  • In 2021-22, the Province is investing $440.6 million to provide services to children and youth with support needs in B.C.
  • Approximately 30,000 children and youth with support needs are accessing services offered through the Ministry of Children and Family Development and its contracted service providers.
  • To better serve children who require specialized equipment, the funding for medical equipment benefits will increase by $10 million starting in April 2022.

Learn More:

For more information on the new system of supports, visit:

Questions about the new service approach can be directed to the Children and Youth with Support Needs Resource Line: 1 833 882-0024

To read more about the research and consultation done in 2019, visit:

A backgrounder follows.


Ministry of Children and Family Development
Government Communications and Public Engagement
250 356-1639


Transforming services

The Province is transforming the way services are delivered to children and youth with support needs and their families to create a system that, when fully implemented in 2025, will better serve a more children and youth to reach their goals, no matter where they live in B.C.

Respite Care

Respite care is planned or emergency temporary care provided to the parents or caregivers of a child or youth with support needs. In April 2020, the ministry established the Emergency Relief Support Fund for children and youth with support needs and their families. The fund provided eligible families with a direct payment of $225 per month for three months to help them purchase supports to alleviate stress. Using a needs-based approach, the emergency funding, which was available until September 2020, supported 50% more of the eligible families that were awaiting services. Based on feedback from families, the ministry is making the flexible use of respite permanent.

Service changes for children, youth and families

Children, youth, and their families will be able to quickly access information, expert intervention, and therapies from birth to age 19, based on their needs and without a referral or diagnosis. For the first time, families will also have access to mental-health, behaviour and family supports – all in one place.

While diagnosis will remain an important tool that can help families and service providers to tailor supports for children and youth, supports will be designed to help children and youth with their needs even without a diagnosis, meaning children can get the help they need sooner. This will include three core streams – developmental and goal-focused services, disability services and provincial services – that will help support the developmental and functional goals of children, youth and their families.

One-stop family connections hubs

Families who have children and youth with neurodiversity, disabilities or other support needs – or who believe their child may need extra support – will be able to go to a family connections hub to access services. Their child’s or youth’s needs will be assessed by a qualified practitioner using a standard assessment, which will identify the child’s or youth’s abilities and support requirements. This process can be more straightforward than diagnostic assessments, providing support to families earlier and helping to reduce the wait times for diagnoses.

It has been a challenge for children, youth and families – especially those living in rural or Indigenous communities – to access stable, consistent services. All hubs will offer consistent services and supports, making the system easier for families to understand and navigate. Hubs will be run by one lead organization as contracted service providers within defined geographic areas. Each provider – which will be chosen via a procurement process – will be accountable to the Province to uphold the standards of delivery and ensure the required developmental and goal-focused services are provided within their area of responsibility. These hubs will also provide families in surrounding communities with the services offered in larger centres, either through virtual technologies or mobile services.

Families in the two early implementation regions, who are currently receiving individualized autism funding or school-age extended therapies, will be able to choose whether to keep the funding, services and supports they receive today, or instead opt into the new hub services once they open. Starting in September 2024, as the new hubs open their doors throughout the province, the ministry and the hub operators will work with families receiving individualized autism funding to help transition them, over a six-month period, to the service hubs where their children will continue to receive supports, including speech therapy, behavioural support and other services that will help them continue working towards their goals.


  • October 2021 to March 2022: Information sessions and partner outreach.
  • April 2022 to November 2022: Procurement process is open for the first two early implementation regions.
  • November 2022 to January 2023: Procurement is complete in the Central Okanagan and the Northwest. Successful hub operators are identified and begin to set up their service hubs.
  • February 2023: Hub services are open for families in the Central Okanagan and the Northwest. Families in these regions transition to services at the hubs. Existing services continue for families in the rest of the province. Families in these regions can continue receiving the existing autism or SAET services they currently have or can opt to transition to the new hub services.
  • September 2023 to April 2024: Provincewide procurement is open.
  • May 2024: Procurement is complete and successful hub operators are identified.
  • May 2024 to August 2024: Operators set up their service hubs.
  • September 2024: Hubs open provincewide.
  • September 2024: The individualized autism funding program no longer accepts new applications.
  • September 2024 to March 2025: Families begin to transition to hubs.
  • March 2025: Individualized funding for autism concludes. All families now receive services through the one-stop hubs.


Ministry of Children and Family Development
Government Communications and Public Engagement
250 356-1639

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